New England Tech to launch new digital games institute

Updated at 1:42 p.m.

A NEW ENGLAND INSTITUTE of Technology student participates in a game design class on campus. New England Tech's new digital games institute is slated to train university students to become candidates for next generation digital careers. / COURTESY NEW ENGLAND INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

EAST GREENWICH – The New England Institute of Technology is set to power on a new initiative to help expand the digital game industry both locally and nationally, and also assist other industries as well.

The technical college on Aug. 3 will launch a new digital games institute that will connect entrepreneurial industry leaders with digital students to provide internships and employment opportunities. The new organization, which will be based at New England Tech’s main campus building atrium at 1 New England Tech Blvd., also will help attract new businesses to Rhode Island and support small business growth in the state by nurturing the next generation of gaming and esports talent.

New England Tech says video games are a $300 billion global industry, however games, game mechanics and similar technology are influencing other industries. Alan I. Resnick, New England Tech’s vice president for strategic planning who is spearheading the effort, told Providence Business News Friday the college back in June held an open roundtable to brainstorm about where the gaming industry is today and if industry growth can be a reality.

The discussions determined a “clear message” that the state has the talent and business infrastructure to enhance digital gaming in Rhode Island, Resnick said. He said the parts are there to grow the industry, but leadership was needed to put the parts together to develop comprehensive programming.

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“We [at New England Tech] decided to take the initiative and form that leadership,” Resnick said, “and bring everybody together in a collaborative way to move forward.”

Resnick says the new institute – which training is expected to start next summer – has three principal functions. The first, he said, is to train college students who are interested in digital technologies, such as game design, “a bit above” what they normally get out of a typical college education.

New England Tech currently has students enrolled in various game design curricula, which launched in 2006 and had approximately 200 students in its digital arts programs, such as video game development and design in that time. But Resnick says the institute will be different in that there will be teams formed to create new games in a multidisciplinary setting. Those teams, he said, will be comprised of not only coders, digital game designers and production people, but also musicians and storytellers.

“We’re reaching out to students from all over the region who bring those disciplines,” Resnick said. “There will be five to six students for each team, and they will be putting these games together. It’s even broader than what we do here.”

Resnick also said students from the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University had participated in past game design programs at New England Tech, and hopes students from those institutions – as well as others from around Rhode Island – will be part of the institute.

Secondly, the institute will help students network with the industry and create an environment where local digital game companies can grow, as well as potentially attract new gaming companies to the Ocean State. It will be a form of economic development, Resnick said. The new institute will also explore and develop ways in which digital game dynamics can be applied to other organizations and industries to “improve people’s lives and business outcomes” of industries within the state.

“Digital games are based on engaging the user,” Resnick said. “There are techniques to engage customers in business, to engage patients in health care, to engage students in educational content delivery, and within business and industry to improve workflow.”

For example, Resnick noted a Boston company is developing games for young people who may be on the autism spectrum or other emotional challenges to help them engage and manage their emotions through various exercises. Resnick said health care, pharmaceuticals, educational content, workplace workforce and entertainment will be the industries the institute hopes to develop technology and talent for.

The institute will also further prep students for careers in game design. Resnick said college students from all over the country, including within Rhode Island, will have the chance to participate in collaborative projects that will advance their skillset and make them “highly desirable and competitive employees” within the gaming industry.

Resnick said New England Tech is financing the institute’s development, including renovating space in atrium to house the institute, but did not say what the price tag is. At a point when the program matures, Resnick said it “wouldn’t surprise him” if the institute attracted other supportive funding, possibly from industry foundations.

Resnick says the institute will host meetups for college students interested from across the state who are in game design to gather and build connections before the formal training commences next summer. There will also be exhibits and other demonstrations for students to promote the gaming industry as well via the institute, he said.

Resnick anticipates the new institute will be a highly visible program at New England Tech.

“It’s elevating the brand and visibility, and making partnerships all within the context of digital technology,” he said.

(Update: Photo changed)

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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